Thursday, March 8, 2018

Playoff Preview: Quinnipiac Bobcats at Cornell Big Red

Quinnipiac vs Cornell in match up earlier this season (photo copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)

A week after dispatching their Whitney Avenue rival in the Yale Bulldogs, Quinnipiac faces another familiar foe in the #2 ranked Cornell Big Red a team that Quinnipiac has faced more than any other team in the ECAC playoffs since moving to the conference back in the 2005-2006 season. This will be the teams 5th meeting in the quarterfinals with Quinnipiac winning three of the prior four meetings with the last three series going to a decisive Game 3. It's a bit of a role reversal as back in 2013 and 2016 Cornell was the #9 and #8 seeds in the ECAC tournament while Quinnipiac was the #1 seed both times and got pushed to the distance. Now with Cornell as the #1 seed and Quinnipiac the #9 seed will we see history repeat itself?

Broadcast Information: Via Cornell Athletics

Tale of the Tape:

#9 Quinnipiac Bobcats 16-16-4 (9-11-12 ECAC)
2.89 Goals scored per game (22nd nationally)
2.64 Goals allowed per game (17th nationally)
18.18% Power Play (30th nationally)
83.94% Penalty Kill (10th nationally)
Cleary Cup Championships: (3) 2016, 2015, 2013
Whitelaw Cup Championships: (1) 2016
NCAA Tournament Appearances: (5) 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2002
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: (2) 2016, 2013

#1 Cornell Big Red (#2 ranked) 23-4-2 (17-3-2 ECAC)
3.07 Goals scored per game (18th nationally)
1.51 Goals allowed per game (1st nationally)
16.81% Power Play (40th nationally)
82.35% Penalty Kill (17th nationally)
Cleary Cup Championships: (4) 2018, 2005, 2003, 2002
Whitelaw Cup Championships: (12) 2010, 2005, 2003, 1997, 1996, 1986, 1980, 1973, 1970, 1969, 1968, 1967
NCAA Tournament Appearances: (20) 2017, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, 1997, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1980, 1973, 1972, 1970, 1969, 1968, 1967
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: (8) 2003, 1980, 1973, 1972, 1970, 1969, 1968, 1967
NCAA National Championships: (2) 1970, 1967

Key Players:

QuinnipiacOdeen Tufto, F (41 points), Tanner MacMaster, F (32 points), Chase Priskie, D (25 points, 8 PPG), Alex Whelan, F (19 points, team leading 16 goals), Bo Pieper, F (18 points), Brogan Rafferty, D (17 points), Nick Jermain, F (14 points), Karlis Cukste, D (12 points), Andrew Shortridge, G (2.36 GAA & .906 save %, 5 shutouts), Keith Petruzzelli, G (2-0, 1.01 GAA , .953 save % in 2 ECAC playoff games)

Cornell: Anthony Angello, F (25 points), Trevor Yates, F (24 points), Mitch Vanderlaan, F (17 points), Alex Rauter, F (16 points), Yanni Kaldis, D (15 points, +9), Matthew Nuttle, D (11 points, +19), Brendan Smith, D (10 points, +20), Alec McCrea, D (10 points, +20), Matthew Galajda, G (19-3-2, 1.49 GAA, .941 Save %, 8 Shutouts)

Playoff History:

2007 ECAC Quaterfinals - Quinnipiac won series 2-0 at Lynah Rink
2011 ECAC Quarterfinals - Cornell won series 2-1 at Lynah Rink
2013 ECAC Quarterfinals - Quinnipiac won series 2-1 at High Point Solutions Arena
2016 ECAC Quarterfinals - Quinnipiac won series 2-1 at High Point Solutions Arena

The Skinny:

Despite losing two games to Cornell this season, Quinnipiac played very well against the Big Red and could have won either games especially the one at Lynah. The Bobcats have played better at times on the road than they have at home this season so this might be a good thing for them to be away from home the rest of the way. While Cornell's record at 27-4-3 is very impressive along with their defense and goal-tending, I tend to think their record has been inflated a bit due to the down year of the ECAC and a soft as Charmin non-conference schedule. The best non-conference win is an average Boston University team that has underachieved massively. Their best conference win is probably against Union who is not even in the top 16 of the pairwise. While Quinnipiac isn't close to the top 16 of the pairwise they have three wins against the top 10 of the pairwise in Northeastern (2) and Clarkson.

By far this will be the toughest defensive team that Quinnipiac sees the rest of the way. Talent wise they don't match up with all the draft picks that a Boston University has on the blue line but as a collective group there has been no one better than Cornell which has been a trademark of great Cornell teams of the past. Throw in Matthew Galajda who likely will win the league goaltender of the year and possibly the rookie of the year (though I think Tufto should win ROY) and they are very strong in their own zone. Cornell has rarely blown a team out in a game this year and when they do its usually a team that isn't very good so expect this series to be low scoring and probably pretty close. While this isn't the Quinnipiac teams of the past half decade it's still a team that shouldn't be overlooked and is capable of playing with anyone on any given night.

If Quinnipiac plays to it's identity like it did last week it has a very good chance of winning this series. They are going to need to consistently hunt the puck which is a patented Rand Pecknold term. They need to bring a heavy fore-check in the neutral to force Cornell into bad decisions and turnovers which can create additional chances. Quinnipiac's depth is expected to be tested against a deeper Cornell team that is can be very physical at times. The Bobcats will need to be able to sustain that physicality along with keeping their emotions in check because these teams have a history of getting into scrums in the ECAC playoffs.

They will again need more than just the Tufto line to step up in this series if they are going to win. Contributions from up and down the roster are going to be a key. Quinnipiac will also need to play strong defense with excellent gap control in this series. Goal-tending for the Bobcats will be a key and its likely we will see Keith Petruzzelli back in between the pipes again this series. He needs to play as well as he did against Yale because if he does that will be huge for Quinnipiac in which they can maybe use the defense (Priskie, Rafferty and even Fortunato) in a more aggressive role offensively.

The Prediction:

This is a very interesting match-up because you can make a case Quinnipiac could have swept the Big Red this season and definitely should have won the game at Lynah this year. No team other than Union and Yale played the Big Red tougher without a win or tie to show for it. Quinnipiac has had a ton of past success at Lynah Rink especially in the past five plus years along with a lot of success against the Big Red in the ECAC Tournament. They also have a renewed confidence and have played well in the second half of the season and I think they will play really well against a good Cornell team on the road at hostile Lynah Rink which is a big home ice advantage for the Big Red. Its really hard to beat a team three to four times in a season especially if you have played them extremely close the prior two times. This was the best match up in my opinion for Quinnipiac more than any other higher seed remaining for them to play due to how well they play against them historically especially in the playoffs.

Qunnipiac in 3

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